Blue Beetle: Reach for the Stars

John Rogers, Rafael Albuquerque & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1642-9

Although long-gone as a monthly series the latest incarnation of the venerable Blue Beetle still survives in trade paperback collections where you can – and should – experience the frantic, fun and thrill-packed exploits of young Jaime Reyes, an El Paso teenager who was catapulted into the world of high-level super-heroics when a sentient scarab jewel affixed itself to his spine and transformed him into an armoured bio-weapon.

The third volume (collecting issues #13-19 of the monthly comic-book) begins with ‘Defective’ by Rogers, Albuquerque, David Baldeon and Dan Davis, wherein a benevolent seeming alien from an interstellar collective named The Reach introduces himself and reveals that the scarab is a invitation used to prepare endangered worlds like Earth for trade and commerce as part of a greater pan-galactic civilisation.

Unfortunately the one attached to Jaime has been damaged over the centuries it was here and isn’t working properly.

But the Reach envoy is a big, fat liar…

The Scarab should have paved the way for a full invasion and once they discover this, Jaime and militaristic superhero Peacemaker soon realise that The Reach are the worst kind of alien invaders; patient, subtle, deceptive and stocked with plenty of space-tech to sell to Earth’s greedy governments. The only hope of defeating the marauders is to expose their real scheme to the public – which is too dazzled by the intergalactic newcomers’ media blitz to listen…

‘Mister Nice Guy’ (Rogers & Albuquerque) finds the Beetle teamed again with the erratic Guy Gardner – a Green Lantern who knows all about The Reach and their Trojan Agenda – to defeat the macabre Ultra-Humanite who has sold his telepathic services to the invaders. Still looking for allies and a solution Jaime meets Superman in ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ by J. Torres & Freddie Williams Jr. and battles one of the DC Universe’s gravest menaces in the startlingly powerful change of pace tale ‘Total Eclipso: the Heart’ by Rogers & Albuquerque.

The same creative team produced ‘Something in the Water’ as the elemental menace Typhoon joins with The Reach to endanger an entire city – and Bruce Wayne’s off-shore oil wells – in a clever and insightful tale with plenty of punch whilst ‘Away Game’ (Rogers, Albuquerque, Baldeon & Davis) finds the Beetle and the Teen Titans in pitched and pithy battle against the unbeatable alien biker-punk Lobo.

Rogers and Albuquerque are joined by the weirdly whimsical Keith Giffen for the final tale in this collection which focuses on Jaime’s best friend Brenda, who has blithely lived her entire life unaware that her foster-mother is La Dama, El Paso’s crime boss supreme. The distraught girl only learns the dreadful ‘Hard Truths’ when the rival mob Intergang declares war and sends the fifty foot woman Giganta to smash her and her family to gooey pulp…

There are so few series that combine action and adventure with fun and wit, and can even evoke tragedy and poignant loss on command. John Rogers excels in this innovative and impossibly readable saga and the art is always top notch. And with the climactic final battle against the Reach still to come, this is a series any adventure fan will want to read over and over again.

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